Planting Social Change One Garden At a Time

Emily Wax explores how guerrilla gardeners in Washington D.C. are taking over vacant lots and creating space for neighborhood gardens and vegetable patches, and building community along the way.
April 19, 2012, 5am PDT | Alesia Hsiao
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This spring, cities like Portland, Detroit, Baltimore and DC are engaging in an emerging urban activist movement -- guerrilla gardening. "This is civil disobedience with a twist: Vegetable patches and sunflower gardens planted on decrepit medians and in derelict lots in an effort to beautify inner-city eyesores or grow healthful food in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh food," writes Wax.

According to Emmy Gran, a teacher at Old City Green, a gardening store in the Shaw neighborhood of D.C., "Guerrilla gardening is urban gardening and food justice." She dates the genesis of guerrilla gardening to the late 1960s, when the Berkeley community turned a disused piece of land near the University of California campus into a public green area. It has since spread worldwide to more than 30 countries and is actively documented on a British-based website.

Although "District police say that guerrilla gardening technically constitutes unlawful entry, a misdemeanor," according Wax, it's operating successfully below police radar in D.C., for now.

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Published on Saturday, April 14, 2012 in The Washington Post
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